by Rabbi Chaim Dovid Green
In the end of last week's parsha Moshe complains to G-d. "Why have You
bestowed evil to this people...?" Moshe was upset about how conditions for
the Jews had worsened since he came to Pharaoh to request a week of leave
for the nation. G-d's response is explained in Rashi (Exodus 6:9), that G-d
rebuked Moshe for complaining and questioning Him. G-d then goes on to
illustrate how the Patriarchs (Avraham, Yitzchok, and Yaakov) never
complained for not having seen the fulfillment of the promises G-d made to
We must ask, however, that there is an obvious difference between the
Nature of Moshe's complaints and that which the patriarchs would have had
to complain about. Moshe was not complaining about anything personal. He
was not upset about G-d delaying the fulfillment of His promise to Moshe.
Rather, his complaint pertained to the suffering of the Jewish people.
Regarding himself, he could have been forgiving. It was the harsh decrees
which Moshe was complaining about.
Because of this question, there are commentaries which explain that the
reason G-d rebuked Moshe was for his having said "why did You bestow evil
to this people?" The support for this view is that when Moshe pleaded for
the forgiveness of the Jews when they sinned with the Golden Calf, he said
"why G-d, should Your anger burn against Your people..."? (Exodus 32:11).
In that context Moshe questions G-d, but makes no reference to bestowing
evil to the Jews, and G-d accepts Moshe's plea with favor. The basis of
G-d's rebuke here is that all things which occur in the world are all for
the ultimate good. Moshe has no right to qualify what G-d does as evil.
Rabbi Chaim Shmulevitz quotes a midrash. There were three men among
Pharaoh's advisors. One was Bilaam, the evil prophet who tried to curse the
Jews (Numbers, 22). The second was Iyov, or Job, who is the victim of
unspeakable sickness and suffering, in the Biblical Book of Job. The third
is Yisro, who became the father-in-law of Moshe. Bilaam recommended
enslaving the Jews. Iyov took the fifth amendment, and Yisro ran away.
Bilaam who gave the evil advice was ultimately killed by the sword. Iyov
who stayed quiet, suffered terrible sickness, and Yisro was rewarded. It
seems strange that Bilaam's punishment should be a fast death, while Iyov
should suffer a prolonged illness. Where is the justice in that? Iyov only
kept quiet when he should have protested.
The theme of Rabbi Shmulevitz's answer is that life is such a precious
gift, that even living in suffering is not as bad as dying. Waking up in
the morning is like winning the lottery every day, and that is a gross
understatement. When a person wins the lottery, the small things which
would usually bother him suddenly look much less significant.
This is what King David writes in Psalms 118. "G-d gives me suffering, but
He does not put me in the hands of death." Even though I experience
suffering at the hand of G-d, but still he does not allow me to die. This
attitude is the result of properly evaluating the kindness which we are
bestowed in being given life.
There is a fundamental in Jewish belief. That is that there is this world,
which we occupy now, and a there is also a world to come. In that spiritual
world we will experience a profound closeness to G-d, which will pale even
the most extreme ecstasy which we can experience in this world. Our
relatively short stay in this world is meant for us to earn the world to
come - through living properly within the circumstances which we find
ourselves in. Our lives are designed carefully and precisely in order to
facilitate our earning the world to come by completing the job we were sent
here for. In this context it is not as difficult to accept whatever we may
need to live through in order to earn our place in the world to come.
Contrary to popular perception, in traditional Judaism all questions are
acceptable. There is no such thing as the stifling "you just can't ask
that." However, that doesn't mean that G-d will share everything with us.
There are many things we would not understand even if they would be
explained to us, and we are not privy to everything. Even Moshe, at a time
of great favor, requested from G-d the reason why good people suffer, and
G-d did not share the reason with him. The bottom line is that everything
which happens is purposeful, even if we don't understand it.
One who learns to internalize this idea will come to view life with a
completely different perspective. Whether one finds himself in a traffic
jam, or something much worse G-d forbid, the peace of mind that "everything
which G-d does is for the good" will make every "bad" experience bearable.
Text Copyright © 1998 Rabbi Dovid Green and
Project Genesis, Inc.